Introducing Lusine Dzjanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky

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Lusine Dzjanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky are members of the performance group Pussy Riot that came to international recognition in 2012 after its members engaged in a performance critical of the Putin regime in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Three of the group’s members were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

Prior to their escape from Russia, Dzjanyan and Knedlyakovsky experienced a long series of well-documented infringements on their freedom of expression. In 2013, Dzjanyan was relieved of her position at Krasnodar university for her political activities and was blacklisted as an artist from galleries and museums in Russia.

In 2014, Knedlyakovsky and Djanyan took part in a protest with Pussy Riot during the Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. Together with other Pussy Riot members they were beaten by Cossacks.

Works by Dzjanyan.

In December 2016, activist, artist and blogger Knedlyakovsky was sentenced to 15 days for attaching a wooden crucifix to a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first director of the secret police and precursor to the KGB.

The Dzjanyan-Knedlyakovsky family eventually left Russia and applied for asylum in Sweden on 16 March, 2017. While Lusine Dzjanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky have been living in Sweden with their first child Tigran, they have had another son, Levon, born on 16 August 2018.

The Dzjanyan-Knedlyakovsky family in Sweden.

In February 2019, Sweden refused asylum to Lusine Dzjanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky, effectively returning them to Russia.

Following this, Artists at Risk (AR) wrote a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice of the Government of Sweden and the Stockholm Migration Court, which was co-signed by Svenska PEN, Suomen Pen Finnish Pen, Safemuse and PEN America.

The letter stated:

“Under international human rights law, Sweden is obliged not to return a person to a country where they are subject to persecution and risk of serious human rights violations. As such we urge Your Excellencies to ensure that Lusine Dzjanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky, and their family, are not forcibly returned to Russia. We appeal to you to reverse the initial decision of the Stockholm Migration Court and give the Dzjanyan-Nekrasov (Knedlyakovsky) family political asylum in Sweden.”

Following this, the Swedish authorities overturned their original decision granting the Dzjanyan-Knedlyakovsky family asylum status.

The full letter can be read here: